Jour­nal­ists ad­mit: we fear Ha­mas

ANAL­Y­SIS

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ADI SCHWARTZ

SIT­TING IN my liv­ing room for the last month and watch­ing Euro­pean and US TV cov­er­age of the war was a con­fus­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

While sirens were go­ing off in my Tel Aviv sub­urb, I never saw Pales­tini­ans fir­ing rock­ets. In fact, I never saw any armed men in Gaza — only epic scenes of de­struc­tion. And yes, lots of chil­dren and elderly women.

That is a bit odd, given the fact that Pales­tini­ans have launched some 3,000 rock­ets, killed more than 60 Is­raelis and wounded hun­dreds. But who shot the rock­ets? Who was killing Is­raeli soldiers? While we saw Is­raeli tanks ma­noeu­vring near the border, we never saw Pales­tinian com­bat­ants.

For­eign jour­nal­ists who left Gaza this week ad­mit­ted the ob­vi­ous: Ha­mas con­trolled ev­ery image com­ing out of their ter­ri­tory, not al­low­ing pho­tog­ra­phers and re­porters to doc­u­ment mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity, or even show wounded Ha­mas men in hos­pi­tals.

Fo­cused on win­ning a PR bat­tle, the Pales­tini­ans used in­tim­i­da­tion meth­ods and would not al­low any snap­shot that could dam­age their image as harm­less and de­fence­less vic­tims.

Gabriele Bar­bati, an Ital­ian reporter for TV sta­tion TgCom24, tweeted upon leav­ing the Strip re­cently: “Out of Gaza, far from Ha­mas re­tal­i­a­tion”.

He then re­futed the Pales­tinian ver­sion of an in­ci­dent on July 28 in which pa­per’s web­site a few days later, at the jour­nal­ist’s re­quest.

In 15 years of work as jour­nal­ist in Is­rael, I have met plenty of pro­fes­sional for­eign re­porters. How­ever, many hide a fun­da­men­tal flaw in their work: they op­er­ate un­der Ha­mas cen­sor­ship.

Some jour­nal­ists recog­nise this lim­i­ta­tion. In the words of a se­nior jour­nal­ist for one of Europe’s big­gest news­pa­pers, “what I can write from Tel Aviv, I can­not do from Gaza”.

But some­times prob­lems run even deeper, as the story of a Span­ish cor­re­spon­dent in Is­rael proves. Upon send­ing one of his sto­ries to the news­room, where the edi­tor found it not sym­pa­thetic enough to the Pales­tini­ans, he was asked: “Why are you so ob­jec­tive?”

Con­sciously or not, many for­eign jour­nal­ists sym­pa­thise with the Pales­tini­ans. In their post-colo­nial world­view, Is­rael is the op­pres­sor and Ha­mas is the vic­tim.

This week, the Tel Aviv-based Foriegn Press As­so­ci­a­tion, which has a record of crit­i­cis­ing the Is­raeli govern­ment, put out a state­ment con­demn­ing the “bla­tant, in­ces­sant, force­ful and un­ortho­dox meth­ods em­ployed by the Ha­mas au­thor­i­ties against vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists in Gaza.

It con­tin­ued: “For­eign re­porters work­ing in Gaza have been ha­rassed, threat­ened or ques­tioned over sto­ries or in­for­ma­tion they have re­ported.

“We are also aware that Ha­mas is try­ing to put in place a ‘vet­ting’ pro­ce­dure that would, in ef­fect, al­low for the black­list­ing of spe­cific jour­nal­ists. This is ve­he­mently op­posed by the FPA.”

Adi Schwartz is a Tel Aviv-based jour­nal­ist

Bar­bati tweeted about ‘re­tal­i­a­tion’

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